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146
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

trusted, it is to the effect that the line of demarcation follows the form of composition rather than the author. Figs. 11, 11, 17 and 19 show variations that must be attributed to the form of composition; the difference in the curves of Fig. 20 may reasonably be ascribed to the same cause. Fig. 21 shows four five-thousand word-curves, representing two authors and two styles of writing. The curves representing the same style not the same author follow each other. Fig. 22 contains four words-curves of dramas (Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Marlowe and Jonson), and four word-curves from the prose writings of Bacon, Dryden, Goldsmith and Mill. While the latter show considerable variations among each other, they are all clearly differentiated from each of the drama curves.

PSM V65 D150 Comparison of word curves between german and english works.png
Fig. 21. Two Curves each of Dramatic Prose and Descriptive Prose from Different Authors. Dramatic Prose, (A) Goethe, (B) Schiller; Description, (C) Goethe, (D) Schiller. Fig. 22. Eight Word-curves from English Works; Dramas (Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Marlowe, Jonson), Prose Writings (Bacon, Dryden, Goldsmith, Mill).

The theory of characteristic curves is exactly parallel to that of constant sentence proportions. Both rest upon the same fallacy—that personal peculiarities outweigh all other determining factors to such an extent as to make it unnecessary to consider them. Elsewhere[1] I have shown that the average sentence length, instead of being invariable for a given author, varies between wider extremes for different styles employed by the same author than for different authors writing in the same style. Goethe alone shows average sentence lengths varying from 5 to 38 words per sentence. Is it not likewise probable that a more extended inquiry would reveal, in the case of versatile writers like Goethe, Voltaire and others, not two only, but a whole series of invariable word-curves, distributed something like the curves in Fig. 2?

It was the theory of spectrum analysis which first suggested to Dr.


  1. The Sherman principle in rhetoric and its restrictions. Popular Science Monthly, October, 1903. On the variation and functional relation of certain sentence constants in standard literature, University (of Nebraska) Studies, July, 1903.